Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

Am I Delusional?

15 Comments

There are many non-theists who seem downright militant about their non-belief.  Some even tout there militancy as a virtue.  They’re proud of the fact they don’t believe in a deity of any kind and are hostile toward religion and those who do believe.   I can understand that they don’t fancy themselves as delusional and they’re annoyed by anyone they believe to be. I can also understand they don’t want the religious ideals of those who believe forced upon them.  This is supposed to be a free country is it not?  There are those who militantly declare that all religion should be outlawed.  That would be equally forcing a belief on everyone else who doesn’t agree. 

As one who, in the past, has argued that this is a Christian nation, founded on Christian principals I’m readily admitting the delusion under which I fell.  I’m glad I’ve realized that forcing a theocracy on everyone is erroneous and unfounded.  I’m glad I’ve gone through this doubtful stage in my faith and lost that fundamentalist mentality of certainty of salvation and doctrine.  I’m wholly undecided at this point about faith in any God, though I can understand and relate to those on both sides of the issue.  

Surely there is some middle ground to be had; someplace everyone can feel safe regardless of belief.  I wish that people on both sides of the issue were more open to each other’s humanity.  Throughout this process I’ve seen militant, fundamentalist Christians bash atheists, agnostics and those of other faiths.  I’ve seen militant atheists mock Christians, and those of other faiths as well as agnostics.  They frequently call each other delusional, among other things.  Let’s look at the definition of delusion, shall we? 

de·lu·sion  (d-lzhn)

n.

1.

    a. The act or process of deluding.
    b. The state of being deluded.
2. A false belief or opinion: labored under the delusion that success was at hand.
3. Psychiatry A false belief strongly held in spite of invalidating evidence, especially as a symptom of mental illness: delusions of persecution.

Both fundamentalist Christians and militant atheists are under the delusion that the other is horribly misled. There simply is no way to prove that either there is or is not a God.  Various evidences lead one to believe what they believe.  I’ve found through my journey that the very evidence that leads one person to conclude that there is a God is the exact same evidence that leads another to conclude that with little doubt there is no God.  It’s a double edged sword.  And what one deems as evidence for one side of the story another deems as evidence to the contrary.

What I’d like to say in response to that is, “Didn’t your mama ever teach you that you get more flies with honey than with vinegar?”.  Militancy on either side of the issue is an extreme view.  Most of us who struggle with doubt, who were once firm believers in a God, are trying to escape fundamentalism and extremism.  Calling me delusional or stupid for having believed something that seems so ridiculous to you isn’t going to help me become less delusional.  If, as a fundamentalist Christian, you say I must have never been a believer, or that I’m stupid, or that I’ve fallen under a delusion, that won’t attract me back to “the faith”.  It’s offensive. 

We might start with treating each other like human beings; by respecting one another’s beliefs or lack thereof.  Hostility usually just escalates into war.  I think we’ve had enough of that to last an eternity.   We might just find out in the end that we were all delusional.

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15 thoughts on “Am I Delusional?

  1. For what my thoughts may be worth to you concerning this thought-provoking post, the problem I have is with that word "belief." As I use that word to sum up my own opinions about religion and such, it is shorthand for the opinion the evidence seems to suggest to me as true. As most theists use it, it means ideas or teachings that are true regardless or in spite of evidence. The resurrection of Jesus, for example, is a matter of pure faith for orthodox Christians despite, how much they make of the alleged "empty tomb" (which can be explained easily by any number of logical suppositions). To the extent I consider myself religious or spiritual, I can explain it to anyone without reference to belief in the sense of accepting ideas on the basis of pure faith, as if they were part of a divine revelation or evidence for a personal deity. I identify myself as a pantheist and think of that more as a religious philosophy than a religion inasmuch as it identifies how I view the universe and my and everyone's place in it. That is probably more of a matter of metaphor and poetry than anything. I also identify as a religious humanist, which has more to do with the acceptance and promotion of humanity's higher ethical ideals. So in all this I have much more in common with the atheists than theists. Finally, I don't quite agree with your statement that "There simply is no way to prove that either there is or is not a God" for the simple reason that it assumes that there is only one concept of God to contrast with disbelief. The Judeo/Christian God, for example, seems to me to involve self contradictions: God is good and merciful and yet the author of horrible deeds such as genocide. A good study on the subject of God as a falsifiable or unfalsifiable belief is Flew's parable of The Invisible Gardner: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_Invisible_Gardener

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  2. I don't quite agree with your statement that "There simply is no way to prove that either there is or is not a God" for the simple reason that it assumes that there is only one concept of God to contrast with disbelief.I wasn't speaking of a particular God in this respect. I'll clarify: I find it impossible to prove or disprove the existence of a deity in general. I think it is provable/disprovable whether the Christian God exists. When you describe yourself as pantheistic that means to me that you believe there are multiple deities. I cannot disprove that philosophy. That is why I call for temperance in this post. We might all wake up tomorrow and realize we've all been delusional. For instance: the atheist might wake up to find there is a God or Gods. The Christian might wake up to realize their concept of God doesn't exist. We simply don't know. That means we all need to live as humanists. Whether you are Christian or atheist it isn't a bad philosophy to live by. There's nothing inherently sinful in it. I don't agree with all the tents of fundamentalist Christianity. I don't think I should have to abide by their rules. I certainly don't want them forced on me. On the other hand I feel their entitled to their own belief; as long as it's not foisted on me. Your first paragraph perfectly paraphrases what I meant by the entire article, really. You use the word belief to sum up your own opinions about the evidence as it seems true to you. Someone else does the same thing. To them their belief is no different than yours. The evidence suggests to them that there is a resurrected Christ. Yes, the empty tomb can easily be explained away to you and to me. But someone else finds it compelling evidence along with other factors to determine it to be true.My point is simply, the way to get that person to question that belief is not by calling them delusional and making them feel small for having believed it. It is to gently place well timed, well framed questions to make them think about why they believe that and what the other evidence might be.Does that make any sense?

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  3. On the other hand I feel their* entitled to their own belief; as long as it's not foisted on me.they're – One day I'll learn to proof read. Honest, I will. 🙂

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  4. Unfortunately, there will be hard-liners in any belief system, and atheism is no exception.I suspect that the militancy of some hard-line atheists is rooted in anger at organized religion. Most atheists were raised in some religious tradition, and when they discover that their religion deceived them, they're angry at having been manipulated. Most get past this anger or channel it into constructive pursuits, but some nurse that anger into militancy.

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  5. I agree with Ahab although I'd expand the explanation to include anger over how often Christianity (and other religions, depending on where you live) are pushed onto atheists/agnostics. I've heard otherwise reasonable and open-minded Christians say some horrifically prejudiced things about non-theists. (This isn't to say that becoming militant is an effective response to the militarism of others…but I can understand why it happens.)

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  6. I agree with Ahab as well. I can see that being an initial response. Though when I first began doubting my faith I was more angry with myself for being so naive; for not researching the claims of religion better for myself. Much like the person taken in by the snake oil salesman, I blame myself for not being more critical in my assessment. But I can definitely see becoming angry at those persuading others into the faith. The thing that pops out at me, though, is that those people typically believe what they're selling, unlike the snake oil salesman. It's hard for me to stay angry when I realize that those people weren't intentionally selling me a bad bill of goods. They think the bill of goods is just perfect. Literally. You are right, Lydia. As I point out in my post there are certainly militant Christians. I've seen non-theists called all manner of things. Just look at the way Bruce gets castigated over at Fallen from Grace. He's not out soliciting converts. He's just there to offer them encouragement if ever they do doubt their faith. That is point with this entire post. Rarely does name-calling and lambasting have the desired effect.

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  7. I'm just skeptical of anyone who's too sure of anything. Certainty is the delusion! lol

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  8. "Throughout this process I've seen militant, fundamentalist Christians bash atheists, agnostics and those of other faiths. I've seen militant atheists mock Christians, and those of other faiths as well as agnostics."Urgh, I am guilty of this, and tired of this as well. It's just not productive.I think it comes from a mix of factors; lack of empathy, lack of patience, lack of understanding how to constructively debate, and a lack of the ability to control emotions when discussing a matter of such vital importance. It takes extraordinary self-discipline and understanding to consistently keep it on a professional level. I still have a lot of growing to do."And what one deems as evidence for one side of the story another deems as evidence to the contrary."I've seen that happen, and it makes me laugh. 🙂"It's hard for me to stay angry when I realize that those people weren't intentionally selling me a bad bill of goods."Well said!

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  9. I've written about this more than once.I reserve the right to refer to myself as "delusional" … but I do not like it when non-theists assume "delusion" is the default diagnosis of theists.I've encountered militant agnostics as well. In fact, I almost become one when an atheist says agnostics are fence sitters, lukewarm or weak atheists. Almost sounds like scriptural condemnation, doesn't it? 🙂

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  10. This is a subject I've been pondering myself for some time.Certainly there are elements of the atheist movement which embrace extremism to a level that would make a violent cult look mainstream. New Atheism (or Gnu, if you choose to use the post modern ironic label that some prefer).This is something that the organised atheists have been talking about amongst themselves. You only need to look up Phil Plait's "Don't Be A Dick" speech and the fallout from that to see that this very issue is very divisive among atheists and skeptics themselves.My feeling is that for some religion really is a problem. I.E. its the cause of much of what is wrong in society, rather than just being a benign belief. Religion is placed in the same box as Climate Change Deniers, Anti-Vax Proponents, 9/11 Truthers, Birthers and a whole host of other stuff that comes under the label of dangerous whack jobs.When looked at that way, its hardly a surprise that those people look down their noses at the religious at thought they's stepped in something unspeakable.Sadly, its a case of all being tarred with the same brush.Even more sadly, the vocal insulting minority make it harder for the quiet spoken oil pourers who actually want to make a difference.

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  11. D'Ma:"We might start with treating each other like human beings; by respecting one another's beliefs or lack thereof."Unfortunately, it appears that it is much more difficult for theists (especially Fundies of any stripe) to respect any other view than their own. First, they simply cannot accept that atheism is a lack of belief in any God, rather than some other "belief system". For the most part, I believe there would be little, if any, "organized" Gnu atheism, were it not for believers insistance upon everyone else either accepting or "respecting" their particular religious system, to the extent of 1) incessant proselytizing, even against the target's wishes, and 2)constantly trying to to impose these views in secular settings. If it were not the case (at least in the U.S.) that Christians need to force themselves upon everyone else, by law, if necessary, the vast majority of non-believers would have little motivation to resist or counterattck. Clearly, things could be worse here. We could be under physical and financial attack becdause we do not recognize Islam as the "only answer"……..wait, we are! It appears to me that religionists' need to get/force everyone else to agree with them reflects the fact that this is the only way they can get affirmation of their hoped for "heavenly reward" in this life.Calling for "can't we just respect each other?" is an admirable effort, even a very "Christian" approach, but it is clearly doomed to failure, inasmuch as its defeat requires only the fringes of this discussion to destroy it every time.

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  12. @EI,Me too! Certainty makes people arrogant and prideful where there really isn't any room for that. I thought that was the whole point of Pauline doctrine, right? No prideful boasting.================================================@TWF,I think when we're passionate about something it's hard not to get worked up and let our emotions get the best of us. We've all done it. The ones that get me are the people(on both sides) who are relentlessly belittling and condescending.It's hard for me to compare most Christians to snake oil salesman. Snake oil salesmen typically know they're selling a load of hock. Most Christians really believe in their product. That's not to say there are some who don't, but by and large I'd say that they believe the line they're pushing."Urgh, I am guilty of this, and tired of this as well. It's just not productive."My point exactly. The figurative shoving matches usually escalate into all out war, causing both sides to dig in deeper for the long haul instead of examining what they believe and why. It just doesn't work.===============================================@Zoe,I guess any individual or group can be dogmatic, eh? It does get old, and, yes, because of the militancy of some atheists and their dogmatic approach(calling agnostics fence sitters, weak atheists, etc.) it comes across as a substitute for religion. I can see why some Christians call it such. The militant, group minded, atheist seems to want the world to conform to their view. What's the difference?================================================@limey,I agree with you that religion is a cause of a lot of what's wrong in society. But is it religion per se or is it the willingness of a group of people to blindly follow? I guess I'm asking: would this same group of people fall prey to some other authoritarian type in place of religion? Seems they just want someone to follow.================================================@Harvey,"Calling for "can't we just respect each other?" is an admirable effort, even a very "Christian" approach, but it is clearly doomed to failure, inasmuch as its defeat requires only the fringes of this discussion to destroy it every time."See, this is exactly the point of my post. You found a polite, unoffending way to tell me I am, in fact, delusional without insulting me.;)All joking aside, I realize what you say here is very true. In order to stop the constant bickering and insults, we'd all have to agree to some common ground and, well, that's just way to much to hope for, isn't it?There is definitely a way to disagree and discuss the points of disagreement without all the battling. But a lot of people just aren't capable of it. There is also a major difference between respecting a person's beliefs and accepting them. Some people don't seem to know the difference. I can respect that my friends believe Jesus was raised bodily from the dead even if I don't agree with it. I can even hold a civil discussion about it. Unfortunately my lack of belief only frustrates those who do believe and then it just breaks down.

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  13. I think there is definitely a way to respectfully disagree, and find common ground in almost any issue.But, there are folks on both side of the fence who do not truly want this. They know how to comment in a way that tends to trigger the opposing side to an attack, and then can present themselves as noble victims who are only free-thinkers standing for truth, or in the case of people of faith, "being persecuted for righteousness sake."Becky.

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  14. Becky,I've seen one or two who could play the victim quite well. Too bad it's hard to recognize this trait in ourselves. Amazing how some can see that tiny speck in another's eye without even so much as detecting that big log hanging out of their own.

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  15. Yes, it is. D'Ma. We are all blind to ourselves to some extent. Becky.

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